The Gentrification of the Mind - Sarah Schulman

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Gentrification," Schulman said recently in an interview on WNYC, "was not caused by individuals. It was the process of city policy." A moratorium on construction of low-income housing and tax incentives for luxury developers combined to create severely class-stratified neighborhoods where anyone with less than significant wealth has limited options for where to live. For white newcomers to the city who can't afford much, that often means renting an apartment in a neighborhood that doesn't have many people who look like you. But in Schulman's telling, the struggle over real estate is only the most obvious side of the story. As gentrification reshapes people's understanding of the urban experience, the damage goes deeper; the mind itself, she argues, becomes gentrified. "Spiritually," she writes, "gentrification is the removal of the dynamic mix that defines urbanity — the familiar interaction of different kinds of people creating ideas together." That lost mix was once the fuel for new art and new politics. Gentrification restricts the availability and viability of new and inventive forms of thought, art, and politics. Now that paying rent in New York City requires a decently-paid, full-time job, or indulgent parents, "conventional bourgeois behavior," Schulman writes, "becomes a requirement for [artists] surviving socially, developing professionally, earning a living. By necessity, their goals are altered."